Making Chinese Steamed Buns (Man Tou)

The traditional Chinese steamed buns known as Man Tou 饅頭 are typically white with no fillings. Ethan wanted his buns green today so I added a dash of Pandan paste (which also made the buns nice and fragrant). Hubs wanted chocolate buns and all I had, was Nutella. Trying to please everyone I made (with Ethan’s help of course) Nutella filled Pandan Man Tou. I made 12 buns (the size of your palm after steaming) but you can make 24 good size Man Tou.



  • 5 g instant dried yeast or active yeast*
  • 250 ml water
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp Pandan paste (optional, you can add coco powder and green tea powder etc)
  • 40 g caster sugar
  • 500 g all purpose flour**
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Nutella for filling (optional, you can use azuki bean paste, caramel, sesame paste etc

*If using active dried yeast instead of instant yeast, it is best to hydrate and proof the active dried yeast with 250 mL warm water for 30 minutes before adding to the rest of the ingredients

** You can use superfine white Hong Kong flour but I tend not like it because it tends to be bleached. I only have self raising flour at home so that was what I used.


Method for making sweet dough

1 ) I used my trusty breadmaker to do the mixing, kneading and first proofing. The wet ingredients were placed in the breadmaker first followed by the dry ingredients and function set to ‘Dough’ on my breadmaker, sit back and relax. The ‘Dough’ cycle on my bread maker takes 1 hour and 30 minutes.

If you do not have a breadmaker, mix all dried ingredients and make a well. Combine the yeast and water in a bowl. Carefully pour the water containing yeast into the well and mix gently until all ingredients are incorporated. Knead gently for about 10 minutes do not over do it. Oil a medium mixing bowl, put the dough in it, and cover the bowl with a dry kitchen towel. Proof the dough for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

2 ) After first proofing, remove dough from the breadmaker (or oiled bowl, if not using a breadmaker).

3 ) Oil the work surface and hands with small amount of cooking oil.

4 ) Divide the dough into 12 (or 24 portions if making smaller buns).

5) Roll the dough into a ball.

6) If adding filling, flatten the ball with palm, place filling in the middle and seal the dough.


Method for shaping the dough

Making round buns: roll the dough into a ball (easy, no tricks) and place on a grease proof paper previously cut to size.

Making bunnies and hedgehogs: Roll a dough ball  into an oval ball, use a pair of scissors and nip/cut to make ears. Make more incisions to shape a hedgehog. I used black sesame seeds for eyes, you can use raisins or cut the dough to shape the eyes or even use  a couple of dots of food colouring. Place the shaped dough on a grease proof paper previously cut to size.

Making traditional Chinese buns: From Step 3, roll the dough with a rolling-pin  into a flat and thin rectangle dough. Fold the rectangle into 3 layers and roll with a rolling-pin again. Sprinkle or brush the flat dough with water and roll the dough with your hands into a tube or a log. Cut the tube (or log) into size. Depending on how thick  your log is and the size of the buns you want to make, you may get 8 to 24 portions. Place the shaped dough on a grease proof paper previously cut to size.


Proofing, Steaming and Storing

Proof the dough for 30 min before steaming, keeping the dough moist and slightly warm with cling wrap or wet cloth. Steam the buns for 20 mins. Steamed and cooled buns can be frozen and kept for a month. To heat frozen buns, just steam it for 10 to 20 mins (depending on the size of your buns) straight from the freezer.



Ethan and hubs were delighted with the pandan with Nutella hedgehog and bunny buns. We had it for dessert after our sushi.